#MarchToMacon: Previewing 5A state tournament

Welcome to the Class AAAAA bracket. This bracket has a lot of familiar faces, some coaching legends, some star power and some rising programs to watch. 

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DEEP DIVE INTO THE NO. 1 SEEDS 

Warner Robins (21-6) | Warner Robins, GA
Region 1
Notable wins:
Rutland, Dacula, Bainbridge
Notable players: Anthony Dillard, Jacobi Coleman, Keshun Houser, Shamar Rouse
Notes: Keshun Houser coming back from injury couldn't have happened at a better time. The high flying junior provides an instant punch to a lineup in which Jacobi Coleman has held down the fort as one of the teams most constant producers. Anthony Dillard has provided the points and rebounds(15ppg & 8 rpg) while Shamar Rouse has stepped up in key moments. Despite losing several members of last year state championship team, Warner Robins put themselves in the driver’s seat with another one seed. 

Wayne County (21-5) | Jesup, GA
Region 2
Notable wins:
Brantley County, Statesboro, Irwin County, New Hampstead 
Notable players: SR Anthony Grant, SR Marcus Trice, SR Amari Harris, SR Emmanuel Green
Notes: Winners of nine in a row coming into the bracket, the Yellow Jackets are one of the hottest teams in the field. The roster is chock-full of seniors and they’ve proven they can close the gap in close games. Don’t be surprised to see this group make a nice run in the bracket. Home court advantage could be huge for them.They are 11-2 in Jesup. 

Jonesboro (20-8) | Jonesboro, GA
Region 3
Notable wins:
Whitewater, Mt. Zion, Fayette County, Starr's Mill, Lincoln (FL), Bartow (FL) 
Notable players: SR Dakota Leffew, SR Brice Martin, SR Brandon Walker, JR Quinn Thomas
Notes: No one is hotter going into the state tournament quite like Jonesboro is. The Cardinals have won 15 games in a row after their aggressive schedule to start the season. The postseason is a comfortable place for head coach Daniel Maehlman and staff. Jonesboro has been in the winner’s circle before and this group could be the most sneaky of the bunch. This team will grind you down and defend you all the way to submission. 

Eagles Landing (22-4) | McDonough, GA
Region 4
Notable wins:
Woodland, Union Grove, Dutchtown, Lanier, Hillgrove, Eagle's Landing Christian, St. Pius X
Notable players: SR CJ Hood, SR Rashad Elloie, SR Joshua Nwafor
Notes: What an impressive body of work from the Eagles this season. This is a program that isn’t too far removed from a state tile of their own (they won in 2013). The team has won 89 games over the last four seasons. Their road to at least Columbus State for the semi-finals won’t be easy but the Eagles have answered the call this season in their close match-ups. Plus, this group of seniors, particularly Hood (Region Player of the Year), are ready to close their high school careers with a deep run this month and into March. 

Southwest Dekalb (21-6) | Dekalb, GA
Region 5
Notable wins:
Therrell, Norcross, Lithonia, Bishop Snyder (FL), Mundys Mill, Eagles Landing Christian
Notable players: SR James Glisson, JR KD Johnson, JR Eugene Brown (injured)
Notes: Right as Eugene Brown started to rise, a knee injury forced him to the sidelines as many wondered where SWD would turn to next. KD Johnson has played as well as anyone in the state and having a top unsigned forward in James Glisson doesn’t hurt. Organized chaos may be this teams calling card as their pressure has generated tons of turnovers. It shows in the numbers as Johnson has routinely received four or more steals on a number of occasions. 

Riverwood (19-9) | Atlanta, GA
Region 6
Notable wins:
Banneker, Jackson, Lithia Springs, Blessed Trinity
Notable players: SR Davis Herndon, JR Nathan Henderson, JR Cody Kaplan
Notes: Head coach Buck Jenkins gets a lot out of his teams and this group fits his model well. They play well in the halfcourt and get smart buckets from their offensive go-to guy in Davis Herndon. Jenkins is as good as a coach there is in Atlanta and his team is very good on the road. As a team, they hold opponents to 50 points a game. 

Kell (23-5) | Marietta, GA
Region 7
Notable wins:
ELCA, Therrell, Rome, Villa Rica 
Notable players:SR Justin Perry, SR CJ Henderson, FR Scoota Henderson
Notes:A deep guard rotation has allowed Kell to post a stellar record as they ride a five game winning streak into this weekend’s action. Scoota Henderson has been a pleasant surprise as a freshman while Perry’s consistency as a senior has been leaned upon. With no back to back losses since early December, Jermaine Sellers has his group peaking at the right time.

Buford (24-2) | Buford, GA
Region 8
Notable wins:
Wheeler, Cedar Shoals, Ridge View (SC), Loganville 
Notable players: SR Marcus Watson, SR Donell Nixon, SR Eric Coleman, SR Ashton Young, SR Brandon Green, SR Bobby Miller 
Notes: Never count out an Eddie Martin coached team in the postseason. Ever. Martin is one of the greatest to ever patrol the sidelines in Georgia high school basketball history and this team has one of the most athletically gifted players in the Peach in Marcus Watson. A terrific senior balance is there for the Wolves and that experience will be tough to match-up for anyone in the bracket. 

THREE BEST FIRST ROUND GAMES

Columbia (15-10) at Cedar Shoals (14-13): The Athens gym will be packed and should be loud for this first round match-up. Both teams are constants in the state tournament and their fan bases know a good game when they see one. Columbia has been involved in a lot of close games all season. Will that experience help this young crew on the road or will the 1-2 punch of junior guard Tyler Johnson and junior big man Quincy Canty be too much to handle? 

New Hampstead (14-9) at Fayette County (22-5): The three-point centric Fayette County offense will be tested by the slowed down, methodical defensive-anchored New Hampstead style of play in what should be an interesting chess match of basketball. Josh Dupree and the Fayette County attack are balanced and their home court advantage will be a difficult task for a team who will be making a three and a half hour drive in for one game. 

Harris County (17-9) at Woodland (23-5): This could be the best game of the first round of the AAAAA bracket. Harris County has a terrific 1-2 punch in the backcourt with Region 1 Player of the Year Tailique Williams and senior AJ Spencer. For Woodland, there is a nice balance Curtis Perdue, Jalen Mason, Tyrek Washington and Dwayne Chester in the backcourt and wings with Sincere Whitehead manning the middle. This could be a down to the wire game. 

STORY STARTER POTENTIAL 

Veterans has one of the best freshmen in Georgia on their roster in 6-foot-5 wing TJ Grant. The multi-talented wing has a lot of tools to work with. He's one of the best freshmen in the state and has shined as an interior force for the middle Georgia program. Get ready to hear a lot more of him in the coming years ahead. This tournament could be the start of something special for Grant moving forward. 

Liron Thomas of Columbia had a really nice sophomore season for the Dekalb County traditional powerhouse. The 6-foot-3 guard led the team scoring and he has the tools to be a household name in the class of 2021. He’s not there but it is probably coming. Dr. Phil McCrary has coached some terrific players over the years and Thomas as the tools to be next.

Miller Grove is back in the state tournament, an accomplishment that the Wolverines are very much used to, but this group is young. That's evident by their 9-18 record. That said, the youth movement is upon us at the Dekalb County powerhouse and sophomore Zyair Greene is part of that growth. The 6-foot-2 guard posted 17.3 points a game as a sophomore and will be the go-to guy as Miller Grove plays Buford in round one. 

SLEEPER SQUADS 

We mentioned Woodland earlier in our top three games of the opening round and they deserve such a spotlight. Truthfully, the Stockbridge team is Final Four worthy. Sure, calling a top 10 team a sleeper seems a bit off but there isn’t a big buzz (at least what we’ve noticed) about this group. They’re very good and worth tracking this month. 

Lee Hill is in his 41st season of coaching Statesboro and has won over 800 games as the head man of the program. He's been to the state tournament 31 times. His Blue Devils are very good at home and if a little bracket magic goes their way, that could be a big factor in his team’s deep run into the playoffs. Statesboro junior guard Zarion Griffin is the real deal, too. Remember his name. 

FINAL FOUR PICKS

Justin Young: Buford, Southwest Dekalb, Lithonia, Eagle’s Landing
Tai Young: Buford, Southwest Dekalb, Lithonia, Kell

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PICKS

Justin Young: Buford, Eagle’s Landing 
Tai Young: Buford, 

CHAMPIONS 

Justin Young: Buford 
Tai Young: Buford

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